By David Armstrong

After nearly a year out of operation and the subject of dueling lawsuits, the long-deteriorating Carmel Resort Inn in northeast Carmel-by-the-Sea may re-open, according to City Hall officials.

A group of investors led by Carmel’s Hitesh Desai is the new lessor for the 20-cabin property, according to Carmel’s code compliance officer, Al Fasulo, who spoke to this writer right after New Year’s Day. “They’re in the process of trying to re-open and continue the operation,” Fasulo said of Desai and “five or six other” unnamed investors. Dollar amounts were not disclosed, but Fasulo said the agreement includes an option to buy.

The agreement between Desai’s group is with the Kim Family Charitable Trust, which has owned and sometimes operated the 1920s motel for most of the recent era. The tree-studded property occupies nearly an entire city block between Carpenter and Guadalupe streets and First and Second avenues.

According to Fasulo and planning and building director Marc Wiener, the grand re-opening is contingent on meeting a number of city requirements and clearing regulatory safety hurdles. “They’re at least four to six weeks away,” Fasulo said, adding “I don’t know where they are in that process.”

The normally neglected property was a beehive of activity the week before Christmas, with private work crews clearing dried-out vegetation and stacking old mattresses, dry-rot wood and furniture from the site’s wooden cabins outside the guest rooms. “It looks a lot better than it did,” Fasulo told us, while allowing that other issues need addressing.

“Our main concern is fire,” said Fasulo, who conducted a fire inspection that the motel failed. The operators need to install brand-new smoke detectors, he said, and poor electrical wiring and heating gas still pose problems. The owner and lessors have hired an independent fire inspector to make another inspection of the property, according to Fasulo.

Wiener told this writer in a telephone interview that the Carmel Resort Inn site is still zoned for future single-family housing, but added that it can potentially re-open as a hotel for an indeterminate time, provided the new operator “gets it up and puts it in decent shape.”